Your child may have come home one day, asking: “Why is my friend always sick and missing school?” It could be difficult to explain why some kids of his age, or even younger ones, have critical illnesses and can’t have a “normal” life.
Here, parent volunteers with charity organisation Make-A-Wish Singapore as well as parents of a beneficiary share how you can teach your kid to relate to children with critical illnesses and learn empathy.
The global organisation started a branch in Singapore in 2002, with the mission of granting wishes to children with critical illnesses.
Relate it to everyday activities
Azleen Binte Khamis, 36, and Horis Bin Hosri, 37, both teachers
“Parents can educate their kids by explaining how various aspects of their daily life can be different from a child with critical illness. For example, while heading out and travelling overseas is a simple exercise for many kids, there are more factors to consider for a child with a critical illness, such as the accessibility to medical attention or the country of destination’s general cleanliness.
“One way for kids to better relate is to use the analogy of attraction rides at theme parks. Similar to attraction rides where they have height and age limitations before any kid can experience the ride, a child with a critical illness has limitations and unwritten restrictions. Thus, she is able to head outside only when all additional conditions are met.
“My daughter Asfa’s wish experience with Make-A-Wish was a motivational factor for her to persevere through her treatment journey. It developed her interest in travel and gave her something to talk about with confidence when interacting with others.”
(Also read: 10 lessons you can learn from your child)
Volunteer with your kids
Amanda Cho, 35, creative and operations manager and Make-A-Wish volunteer
“I don’t think you can ‘teach’ kids how to relate to kids with critical illnesses or special needs, but you can certainly create opportunities for them to.
“As adults, how many of us are able to be hold a sensitive yet candid conversation with children about their critical illnesses? On the contrary, I believe this comes naturally to children, who come into this world with untainted eyes.
“Volunteering as a family also gives us the opportunity to demonstrate everyday kindness to our children. It reminds them that they are part of a larger community with people who mutually support and depend on one another.
“All of us have a part to play in raising our children to become adults with the ability to make the world a better place.”
Allow your kid to ask questions
Shinu Arora, 35, homemaker and Make-A-Wish volunteer
“My daughter was three years old when I started volunteering with Make-A-Wish Singapore and I always made an effort to discuss my visits to wish children with her.
“Out of her natural curiosity, she always asked about the details of my visits and asked why it is important to help these children. Through these interactions and visits to Make-A-Wish, she has developed empathy towards others.
“My advice to parents would be to openly discuss such scenarios with their kids. I believe children of any age are capable of understanding others’ challenges and it would lead to a more balanced emotional development for them.
“If such situations are discussed openly with them, I am confident that these would help them be more sympathetic to others.”
(Photo of boy with toy: 123RF.com; others: interviewees’ own)